Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Triple-Pepper Sicilian Pizza

I hadn't made a pizza in a long time and was hankering to bake a round. It was then that I espied Mark Bittman's recipe for a rustic Sicilian-style pie in the New York Times. The dough required 24 hours of refrigeration and multiple origami folds, all but ensuring failure in the hands of the clumsy Crumpet. A challenge! I accepted. The recipe, with some variations a la Crumpet, yielded a pie bursting with the colors of fall foliage and supported by a crisp yet billowy crust studded with air pockets. I don't know if I'll ever go back to rise-and-punch pizza dough.

yields a large rectangular pie cut into 12 slices


You will want to start the dough about 24 hours before baking time.


3/4 tsp, or 2 grams, yeast (less than half a packet)
1 7/8 cups water
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
4 Tbsp olive oil


Heat the water to wrist temperature.

Obtain a large, rectangular Tupperware container. In it, mix the yeast and 1 3/4 cups of the water (save the remaining 1/8). Mix in the flours with your hand. (I love to use my hands while cooking! If there isn't a little bit of hand in there, or, in one memorable case, part of a finger, it's not a Tipsy Crumpet production.) The flour will be rough, moist, and shaggy. Let it rest for 20 minutes, covered in plastic wrap.

Dissolve the salt in the remaining 1/8 cup of water. Mix the salt water into the dough. It's okay if it doesn't fully combine. Let the dough sit for another 20 minutes, covered in plastic wrap.

Moisten your hands, then spread 1 Tbsp olive oil on top of the dough. One-third of the way down the length of the dough, lift that end as best you can and fold it under so that the third of dough is underneath the rest of the dough. Do this on the other side. Basically, imagine folding a piece of paper one-third of the way down on both ends so that the ends meet and form a seam underneath the paper. Does this sound hopelessly confusing? I wish I could draw a diagram. It's not that complicated once you do it.

Put the lid on the Tupperware and slide the container into the refrigerator.

An hour later, repeat the process.

An hour later, repeat again. You have now folded over the ends of the dough three times.

Go and do something else for the rest of the day.

The next morning, perform your folds yet again with the remaining Tbsp of olive oil.

Three hours before baking, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Rick Easton, who helped develop the recipe, says that refrigerating the dough until baking is fine, but the Tipsy Crumpet took a more cowardly approach.

Now that the dough is relaxing at room temperature and forming bubbles, let's think about topping the pie.

Slice with sauce and toppings


The original recipe called for no sauce, but I wanted a richer, more tomatoey pie and adapted a garlicky red pepper and sundried tomato spread I found on the One Perfect Bite blog. It should be thick but spreadable.


1 cup drained and coarsely chopped roasted red peppers from a jar
3 Tbsp water
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil and herbs, mostly drained (a teaspoon or two of oil drippings is okay)


Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add water as needed to thin the sauce for spreading.


Before beginning the topping, heat the oven to 450 degrees. Slide a heavy, nonstick jelly roll pan or cookie sheet (at least 13 by 18 inches) into the oven to preheat.

You can top with anything you like. Here's what I chose for a bright fall pizza.


1 small bag of mini multicolored bell peppers (contains about 10-12 little peppers)
1 Tbsp olive oil
8 oz fresh mozzarella
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (preferably the tiny, multicolored ones you can get at the farmers market)
1 Tbsp chopped rosemary
1 bunch fresh oregano leaves
salt and pepper to taste


Remove the tops, seeds, and cores from the peppers (decapitate them and scoop out the innards as best you can). Slice them into thin rounds.

Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat and saute the peppers for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, tear the mozzarella into small pieces.

Putting it All Together

When you have your peppers, tomatoes, cheese, and herbs assembled, return to your dough. Turn it onto a floured surface and gently prod until it's a rectangle roughly 1/2 inch thick.

Carefully take the pan out of the oven. Spread a tiny bit of olive oil on the bottom and sides of the pan and even more carefully daub the oil with a paper towel to blot.

Flip the dough onto your arm. Lift the other end with your hand so as to retain the shape of the rectangle as you carry it to the pan. Set it down flour side up.

Spread the sauce on the dough. Top with mozzarella, then peppers, then cherry tomato halves. Sprinkle the rosemary on top, with a little salt and pepper.

Retain the oregano: you'll add that once the pie has been baked.

With oven mitts, slide the pan onto the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 5 minutes. Slide the pan to the middle rack and bake 15-20 minutes more.

When the pie is golden-brown and seems done, remove it from the oven.

Sprinkle on the fresh oregano leaves.

Slide the pie onto a cutting board and slice into 12 squares.


Look at those air pockets!


  • Bittman's recipe calls for the oven to be preheated to 500. Most baking pans warn you against going above 450, so I turned down the heat and upped the baking time.
  • You could possibly get away with 1 cup more whole wheat flour and 1 cup less white bread flour in the dough.
  • I would love to try different topping combos including, but not limited to, sliced white mushrooms, red onions, kalamata olives, basil, tomato chunks, homemade tomato sauce, garlic, veggie sausage, whole sundried tomatoes, etc. The key thing is to not have a soggy, heavy topping: a thin layer of sauce or tomatoes, a reasonable amount of cheese, and a smattering of flavorful, well-chosen toppings is all you need.
  • Bittman specifically calls for a metal baking pan rather than a pizza stone. After two hours of dithering at Le Creuset, Strosnider's, and Williams & Sonoma (I was in Bethesda), I bought the Williams & Sonoma Goldtouch 15 by 21-inch baking pan, which worked like a champ. It has little ridges all along the bottom that caused the pie to glide off the pan with no scraping at all (Bittman describes a mixture of blind faith and elbow grease to release the pie, which terrified me). I could hear a slight amount of metallic settling in the oven, but the pan worked wonderfully to produce a crispy, airy crust and is well worth the $40 you'll spend to be fancy.
  • Bittman calls for putting the pan atop a baking stone that has been heating for at least half an hour. I would have done this, but my baking stone started releasing funny scents a few years ago and had to be put out of its misery. Hence, my decision to preheat the pan itself.
  • It was easy to cut this pie, even straight out of the oven. It's all about the crust.


5 stars: great leftovers; bliss on a cool autumn night

1 comment:

  1. Fresh oregano is the secret weapon in the battle against mediocre Pizza. Sounds like some pretty elaborate preparation by the enterprising chef!